Bath begins 2012 with YMCA demolition, Armory renovation

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BATH — Demolition of the old YMCA on Summer Street symbolizes the transition between last year and the one that is barely 2 weeks old.

The fate of that building, and the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark that operated within it, was an issue that packed City Council chambers on multiple occasions in 2011.

The council, which had previously OK’d leveling of the dilapidated Y, supported the former National Guard Armory becoming the Skatepark’s new home last month. The council also approved borrowing $308,000 for a basic renovation of the Old Brunswick Road building, expected to occur the first quarter of this year.

That facility, now owned by the city, is also due to include the Box 19 Club, which would like to house antique fire trucks there.

The old Y should be completely down by the end of this month or early next month, with foundation work to take place in February.

“We’re going to grass (the site) over, and I think it’ll be vacant until the right proposal comes forward,” City Manager Bill Giroux said last week. “… It will be available for economic development in the future.”

The council will hold a workshop Thursday, Jan. 19, to discuss a nonprofit corporation that would oversee and operate the armory.

The Congress Avenue multi-use path, which runs from the “Five Corners” intersection to Chandler Drive and offers bicycle and pedestrian access, was a big project in 2011. Federal transportation funds paid for 80 percent of that $800,000 project.

Replacement of the Washington Street sewer line was another major endeavor. The $1 million project allows for more flow, mitigating overflow issues in the areas of Park Street and Juniper Street.

The city owns more than 70,000 square feet of commercial space, at the Midcoast Center for Higher Education, 2 Town Landing Road and the historic train station. And for the first time ever, all those rental spaces are full, Giroux said. Hodgdon Defense Composites is moving into 2 Town Landing Road.

Last June the City Council approved a $13.4 million municipal budget for fiscal 2012, which represented a 1.64 percent municipal tax increase, to $6.8 million.

Giroux said “it’s safe to say that we expect another difficult budget” for fiscal 2013: “As always, revenues seem to shrink, and so we try to cut to match those decreases … but it’s early, really, to talk about where the budget will be.”

On a brighter note, the City Council found itself with a unique problem last February: what to do with an $8.8 million surplus in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, the result of excess employer contributions the city made from the late 1970s to mid 1990s.

The City Council indicated an interest in taking control of the funds, but instead of spending the surplus, the city found an investment company to manage that money. Giroux said at the time that Bath would use a portion of the interest to continue paying the city’s annual share of the pension system, and could use the rest of the interest to reduce taxes or fund capital projects.

Statewide controversy over Central Maine Power Co.’s installation of wireless “smart” electric meters also surfaced in Bath last year. Last month the council voted 5-4 twice to extend by another six months a moratorium on such installations without prior approval of property owners. Residents who want the devices can still have them installed.

CMP threatened to sue last June – at the time the council approved the initial moratorium – if the city did not reverse the temporary ban. But the company ultimately opted not to take legal action.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Exterior demolition of the old YMCA on Summer Street in Bath – former home of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark – began last week and should be finished by the end of this month or early next month, with foundation work to take place in February.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.